Get your earpiece out. Shut the door. It’s time. She’s back. The chart-topping starlet that stole our hearts when she was just 18 is back. Olivia Rodrigo is back. She just released her sophomore album, ‘GUTS’, which has already debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200. She’s on fire, and we’re feeling the heat! This album feels so different from her debut album, ‘SOUR’, but at the same time, so similar. We will break down, analyse, and appreciate the witchery brewed into this album. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the GUTS tell-all album review!
When ‘SOUR’ came out, we did a track-by-track review, telling you exactly how we felt about each song and the perfect mood for you to listen to it. And this time, we’re doing it again. We just have to! The cultural reset that Olivia has brought to the world of music deserves our undivided attention! I mean, she is the first female artist in nine years to have her first two albums chart consecutively, with both SOUR and GUTS hitting No.1 on the Billboard 200 when they were released.
And this time, we’re feeling so much better about this release. SOUR was surrounded by a lot of drama with the not-so-mysterious love triangle and not-so-subtle jabs. The drama was at its height. The media was on their case. The world was watching with bated breath. What a time it was!
But Olivia has grown over the past two years – not just as a young woman but also as an artist. In this album, we get a more distinct taste of Olivia’s style and sound, away from all the teenage drama. We see who she is and where she’s heading. We feel like we’re really getting to know her. It feels more personal, more raw. She has evolved, and so has her music – the musicality, the vocals, the instrumental. Everything is elevated in GUTS. And we’re here for it. We love it. In fact, we’re ready to fill our GUTS out!
So, my dearest readers, here it is. Enjoy.
This song is fascinating. How could a song sound like three songs rolled into one but still sound perfectly one? The chorus is very reminiscent of Avril Lavigne, with the bridge sounding just like the opening track from SOUR – brutal. (This song might just be perfect for my ADHD brain.)
Olivia rants about the inherent contradictions in American culture and embracing who she really is in this pop-rock opener. She preaches with confidence about being the perfect juxtaposition of sugar and spice. As loud and crazy as the chorus and bridge are (the unpitched ‘ah!’ screams at the end of the bridge took my soul), the outro is just as soothing and uplifting, sounding sort of like a self-affirmation mantra. And the harmonies? The cherry on top!
When to listen: When you need a pick-me-up to remind yourself how amazing and perfect you are. When you drop your crown, let this song resound in your main character moment as you pick it back up.
bad idea right?
Oh, adding this song to the final tracklist might have been your best idea ever, girl. It’s so catchy and stays stuck in your head even after listening to it. No surprise that it’s already blown up on TikTok!
This song literally reflects Olivia’s mental state in a genius manner to convey her inside thoughts and bad decisions with the choice of genre, instrumentation and her ever-expressive vocal colour. The way her voice plays with the beat, the harmonies, and the backing vocals inject personality, and don’t even get me started on that guitar riff in that bridge! The composition on this track has blown me away.
When to listen: When you need to dance it out or even rap it out because you’d feel so cool doing it! This song is a 3-minute and 4-seconds-long dance party waiting to happen, with the bedroom transforming into your arena.
This one is easily my favourite song on the album. It’s not surprising that Olivia chose this as a pre-release single because everything is perfect: the story, motif, vocals, and instrumental – everything is perfect! Her creativity really shines through her songwriting.
I’m about to start a whole new fan club just for the “how do you lie, how do you lie, how do you lie?” adlib! It’s so heart-wrenching yet eargasmic at the same time! And the chorus? A pleasant surprise hearing her voice go that high when she started off the song in a rather lower key. This has got to be one of her best songs (And to everyone saying she ripped off Miley Cyrus – let’s cut the girl some slack! Songs sound similar sometimes, and that’s okay. They are different stories and hold different meanings, so let’s enjoy what we get!)
When to listen (or, in this case, jam out): One word – karaoke. I close my case.
Olivia sheds her amour for this one as she spotlights her inferiority complex. She enviously thinks of the girls that come after her – marvelling at their beauty and intelligence while forgetting her own. The gradual shift from admiration to intimidation is a fun little plot twist in a heavy song like this one, as Olivia sings, “It’s like you’re out to get me”.
The harmonies in this song genuinely gave me goosebumps. That bridge is absolutely phenomenal, sounding like all of Olivia’s cries coming together in a symphony of pain. She put magic into this one. Or maybe some of that “angel dust” she sang about because it felt like the gates to heaven opened up with those harmonies.
When to listen: When the dark thoughts hit at 3am, and your mind takes you to your ex and all the new partners they’ve moved on to, let this song be your validation for the feelings you feel. Let yourself indulge in those negative thoughts in a healthy manner, with Olivia’s golden harmonies lighting your way to enlightenment.
ballad of a homeschooled girl
This. This is an introvert’s anthem. Anyone with social anxiety is bound to stream the heck out of this song because it makes us feel so seen!
This song kind of transports you to a different time with its music style – reminiscent of the angst of the early 2000s. But the play of old-school style music in a song called ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’ is a genius move. We simply cannot move on from this track without appreciating the lyrics because they gave me a good laugh. I mean, ‘Sеarchin’ “how to start a conversation?” on a website’ was hilarious. Come on.
When to listen: Every introvert or someone with social anxiety should blast this song in their earpiece as they brave the streets outside the comfort of the four walls of their home.
making the bed
Oh, this one’s a thought-provoker. Olivia isn’t satisfied with her current state of life and claims to be the victim. But she’s torn out of her bubble upon realising that she’s why things are the way they are – she made the bed.
The lyric “pulling the sheets over my head” is a callback to how we’d do this when we wanted to avoid something, when we were scared, or how we still do when we dread getting out of bed and facing reality. It’s as if she’s afraid of coming to terms with the truth that she’s the problem. And it really gets you thinking about your own life.
When to listen: How about we ask when not to listen because that might be easier. This song is so thought-provoking that it really gets you in your feels, thinking about your own state of reality that you definitely don’t want to be starting your day with. Maybe save this listen for one of those emo nights. Don’t let this song depress or deter you; let this song empower you to make a change.
Hear me out. No matter how terrible my math is, this is the first time you’ll hear me scream “Two plus two equals five” with such passion. Once again, Olivia mesmerises us with her songwriting – the juxtaposition in every line of the chorus shows us how flawed her reality is because of her ex’s manipulation and gaslighting.
Her talent for communicating her exact emotions through her tone and intonation takes the spotlight in this one. It’s as if I can hear her cries and feel her exasperation with love. I feel like I can really imagine exactly how the outro would play out if it were a movie – a girl with a blanket wrapped around herself in the middle of the night, rocking herself back and forth as she sits on her bed cross-legged, repeating these horrible words to herself as tears stream down her face. Olivia literally paints you the picture with just her voice.
When to listen: You know what? Embody the feels of this song. Listen to it with a blanket wrapped around you in the middle of the night, rocking yourself back and forth as you sit on your bed cross-legged. But change the narrative: love can be magical. You are magical.
get him back!
This is the classic pop-rock song you’d play in the summer. I honestly imagine this in a musical about high-school love. Don’t you think so too? The title’s double meaning is kind of genius – get him back in her life, but also get back at him, as in revenge! Cue the evil laugh.
This song is not on my favourites list, sounding more on the kiddy side (and a little cringe with the outro, but not complaining!). But I adore how Olivia makes her voice sound like a chorus of many voices. It’s another one of those composition tricks that makes the storytelling better.
When to listen: This is definitely a car-aoke sesh kind of song – if you don’t jam out to this song with all your friends screaming the words as loud as they can, you’re not doing it right.
love is embarrassing
This might be the most Gen-Z song in the album, and I’m here for it. You know how we look back on and dissect our past relationships and think about all the ways we went above and beyond and totally regret it? That’s literally what this song is!
When you or your friend experiences a break-up, don’t we all just pull up with our favourite embarrassing, deprecating opinions about the person and bash them with no mercy? This song sounds like the perfect background music for that. Olivia outros the song mockingly, which she’s so real for! It makes the song everything we just mentioned and so much more.
When to listen: When you think of them. Periodt. Every time you think of the person you were with that you need to close the chapter to, this song will do it for you.
This is another one of those tracks that has goosebump-raising storytelling. The lyrics encompass the impact of pain and hurt after the end of a relationship so well. The lines that absolutely did me in are:
And I know, in my heart, hurt people hurt people
And we both drew blood, but, man, those cuts were never equal
Such a punch in the gut! And Olivia’s voice once again does such a powerful job of conveying gut-wrenching emotions. It’s like I could feel her pain. The piano in the instrumentation is such a wonderful storytelling accompaniment. In some ways, it’s similar to drivers license in that it never takes attention from Olivia’s raw emotion while still assisting in telling the story. And that ending? Mic drop.
When to listen: This isn’t a jam-out kind of song. It’s more of a listen-in-melancholy sort of track. I can imagine myself listening to this song as I sit on the second floor of a double-decker bus, towards the back, with my earpiece on maximum volume, looking out the window and watching the passing scenery as I take in Olivia’s soul-crushing story.
pretty isn’t pretty
Guys, Olivia knows how we feel – how we use make-up to hide our imperfections and insecurities. We been knew.
This song is a heartfelt reflection on self-positivity, beauty standards, and expectations that we just can’t escape. She spotlights how, as a society, we’ve been conditioned to follow the ever-changing trends to ideals like a ritual; if not, we’d be left behind. In this fusion of alternative/indie and pop, this song packs a beautiful message in the guise of Olivia’s honey-like vocals and instrumental.
When to listen: Ironically, I would listen to this while putting on my make-up daily. I’d listen to this song as a reminder as to why I’m wearing make-up – not to hide my imperfections so that I can look pretty, but because I want to; not because the world is telling me to, but because I want to; not because it’s my armour; not because I’m hiding my battle scars, but because I want to.
In this closing track, Olivia shines the spotlight on herself – on her journey as a young musician who grew up under the limelight. She reflects on how she’s had to grow beyond her years to be the person she is for the world to see and the toll it’s taken on her young soul.
It’s an ironic parallel to her punk-rock opening track from SOUR, brutal where she said, “I’m so sick of 17, where’s my fu*king teenage dream?” and now she says she’s 19 and apologises for not being able always to be our teenage dream. The crescendo of the piano in the bridge as the beat drops and then goes back to the piano is amazing to listen to, but also a stunning storytelling method in highlighting the ups and downs Olivia faces behind the door that she never tells us about.
When to listen: This would be an excellent addition to your sad song playlist, with the piano and her voice being soulful instruments that move you in your darkest moments. The beat drop can be a bonus pick-me-up during that melancholy.
My biggest complaint during the SOUR album review was the repetitiveness that started to occur after the first few songs and that the themes felt under-explored (let’s face it, they were almost all break-up songs).
But Miss Rodrigo heard us all and delivered this time around. In this album, I hear something different on every track while keeping consistent with her sound and musical style, which she has found!
I feel like a special shout-out is due for the instrumentation in this album. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear how the instrumental in every song helps to tell the story better. If it’s a more melancholic song, the focus is on Olivia’s vocals and her raw pain that feels so heard with the subtlety of the instruments. If it’s more fun and angsty, you hear that instrumental getting more hyper and intense. It’s a beautiful story-telling tool that Olivia used deftly to complement her mesmerising songwriting.
Olivia has grown, and she’s shown us who she can be. It’s only going up from here. No matter what, I definitely filled my GUTS out with this album. I hope you did, too.
Olivia Rodrigo – GUTS
Olivia’s exclusive collaboration with Sony’s LinkBuds S is also now ready for pre-order!
Visuals courtesy of Larissa Hofmann.